E360 Film Contest

In Nebraska, Bighorn Sheep Reclaim Their Former High Plains Home

In “High Plains Wild” — the Third Runner-Up in the 2022 Yale Environment 360 Film Contest — filmmaker Mariah Lundgren tells the story of efforts by wildlife biologists, conservationists, and landowners to reintroduce and sustain the magnificent bighorn sheep in Nebraska.

2022 Yale Environment 360 Film Contest

A century ago, bighorn sheep, which once flourished on Nebraska’s high plains, had been wiped out there by overhunting, human encroachment, and disease. Yet over the last 40 years, scientists have reintroduced the sheep to western Nebraska’s Wildcat Hills and Pine Ridge region, an effort that has led to a population of 320 bighorn in the state today.

Using stunning footage, including from camera traps and drones, filmmaker Mariah Lundgren takes viewers inside the effort to ensure that the state’s bighorn sheep population continues to thrive among the buttes and rugged hills. She follows scientists as they place radio collars on the sheep, monitor newborn lambs, sample the animals for disease — pneumonia is the biggest killer — and observe their behavior with camera traps that capture striking images of these extraordinary animals.

“In Nebraska, wildlife biologists in charge of these native species that they’re trying to reintroduce into the wild are really amazing people,” says photographer Michael Forsberg, who has followed the reintroduction efforts. “Their connections with these animals run really, really deep … And that’s what conservation takes out here in the Plains today.”

About the Filmmaker: Mariah Lundgren is a filmmaker, photographer, and multimedia storyteller who focuses on conservation stories in the Great Plains and the American West. After graduating from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, she joined the Platte Basin Timelapse project, which uses multimedia storytelling to educate people about watersheds. She now serves as the initiative’s project manager and producer.

About the Contest: The Yale Environment 360 Film Contest honors the year’s best environmental documentaries, with the aim of recognizing work that has not previously been widely seen. This year we received 490 submissions from six continents, with a prize of $2,000 going to the winner.